Leahy to Obama: End NSA program now

Leahy to Obama: End NSA program now
© Greg Nash

One of the Senate’s biggest critics of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) contentious spying programs wants President Obama to make drastic reforms himself, after a congressional plan was blocked on the Senate floor last month.

A day before a key NSA program comes out for court renewal, Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyLawmakers, celebs honor Tony Bennett with Library of Congress Gershwin Prize Dem senator jokes: 'Moment of weakness' led me to share photo comparing Trump, Obama Leahy presses Trump court nominee over LGBTQ tweets MORE (D-Vt.) on Thursday called for Obama to take action into his own hands.

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“The President can end the NSA’s dragnet collection of Americans’ phone records once and for all by not seeking reauthorization of this program by the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] Court, and once again, I urge him to do just that,” Leahy said in a statement. “Doing so would not be a substitute for comprehensive surveillance reform legislation — but it would be an important first step.”

The NSA’s ability to collect and search Americans’ phone records for metadata — such as which numbers a person dialed and how long the conversation lasted — needs to be reauthorized by the secretive surveillance court every 90 days. The current authorization is up for renewal on Friday and the administration is expected to ask for it to continue for another 90 days.

Leahy was the main force behind the Senate’s USA Freedom Act, which would have ended the NSA program and required that agency officials get phone records from private companies after obtaining a court order.

That program failed to surpass a filibuster last month, though the battle will emerge again next year when Congress will be called on to renew the program.

“While I am disappointed that Senate Republicans would not even let us debate the bill, I will continue to fight for strong reforms to government surveillance laws in order to protect the privacy of Vermonters and all Americans,” Leahy pledged on Thursday.